Pharrell Williams kept things close to home by surprising the graduates of a local Virginia HBCU.
Norfolk State University was forced to give its students a virtual graduation due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, this served as the perfect opportunity for Pharrell to give back to his fellow Tidewater natives through an inspiring commencement speech.
"Even if this is not the norm, you guys and girls still deserve all the praise," Pharrell said during Saturday's ceremony. "You stuck it through, you made it and today's your day."
Pharrell has a close connection to the university outside of just being a 757 resident. Williams told the graduating class that the NSU marching band inspired him to learn instruments and make music. The band — known as the Spartan Legion — was also set to perform at this year's Something in the Water festival before Williams was forced to cancel the event.
"To be able to come and speak to this incredible institution and to also know that Norfolk State was going to perform at the Something in the Water Festival," Williams said per CNN. "That would've been like closing my eyes and really actually seeing my childhood dreams come full circle."
As expected, the students appreciated Pharrell's surprise appearance. Like seniors at other schools, NSU graduating mass communications major, Patsy Douglas, was down on her graduation day because it wasn't a traditional ceremony. But seeing Pharrell helped change her mood.
"His message inspired me to keep going and striving for the highest regardless of the circumstances," Douglas told CNN. "His words and affirmation to the class of 2020 will be forever carried in all of our hearts."
Watch Pharrell's NSU commencement speech above.